Like every single homeschooling family I know, I have been asked the
hated dreaded question when discussing our choice of school: What about socialization?
I have read scores of articles written from both perspectives of this issue. I have agreed with (and used) both the statistics and the snarky remarks when confronted repeatedly with this question. The more the question was posed to me, the more I noticed that there was a serious difference in thinking between my fellow homeschoolers and the public school crowd I left behind.
What should the primary purpose of the school be: education or socialization?
I decided to approach what I hypothesized the understanding gap to be in the most scientific manner possible: I polled Facebook.
I bring you my results, complete with pie charts that look like real pie to satisfy my literal kids and readers alike:
First, I posed the question you see in large letters above to public school teachers and parents only. I am overwhelmed by the response! I am also pleased that my friends were quick and honest with their responses, even if I was initially surprised with the results. Finally, I am extremely thankful to my friends who shared my question to help broaden the scope of my numbers beyond just my personal list.
Second, I posed the same question to my homeschool friends and groups. After explaining that I was offering an either/or scenario, and looking for what they felt the purpose should be, not what they feel it is, I was finally able to determine whether my original theory was correct or not.
After wading through the information, the heartbreaking personal stories, the demand for “the other side” to use the proper terminology, and the outrage that so many feel every time they even hear the word “socialization,” I was able to properly tally the results. I was not really surprised, considering my first hand experience with other homeschooling families, but here it is:
Please notice the words “should be” because I think every single response from a homeschooler went on to tell me that they did not feel that the schools were living up to that job. Unless you count “brainwashing the children to believing socialist lies and abandoning what little faith their parents are able to instill in them.” (direct quote) Then several felt the educational system was thoroughly succeeding.
It was also
asked that I clarify the definition of socialization to its actual dictionary meaning and not what people intend it to mean when they use it in the question:
“1. a continuing process whereby an individual acquires a personal identity and learns the norms, values, behavior, and social skills appropriate to his or her social position.
2. the act or process of making socialistic: the socialization of industry.”
Public School Teachers and Parents Respond
I opened my poll to teachers as well as parents to keep it as fair as possible. Homeschool parents are both at the same time, so why not include information from both public school teachers and parents? I also included them because of another theory I had that I will share further down.
Considering the how many times I have heard just my friends say an individual has inquired about socialization, the percentages did not surprise me. (On a side note, I threw the silly answers, such as my brother claiming he sends my nephew to public school for the amazing lunch program or mothers caps-lock answering, “FREE DAY CARE!!” out as I was explicit in only wanting an answer from my offered selection.)
Public schoolers were not nearly as verbose as their homeschool counterparts. I think I had about six who felt the need to justify their answer. One good friend said that she held the opinion that “the majority of learning is done at home regardless. At school, they desperately need to be learning social skills.”
But I promised you a second theory, didn’t I? Here it is: I hypothesized that teachers would hold a different opinion than the parents. In the answers for socialization, I had ONEteacher say that she felt it should be the primary goal for schools. It was quickly pointed out by another teacher that the former was a preschool teacher, and social play is the primary learning tool for that age group.
What about those who answered that the primary purpose of school was education? Well…
Of the 56 individuals who felt that education was the primary reason a child should be in school, only 7 of those were solely parents. I say “solely” because many of the teachers answering are parents as well, but I saw a clear division between them and the parents from any other field.
All this, of course led me to many other questions, such as, “If socialization is the primary purpose for sending your child to school, why should grades matter?” The smattering of folks to whom I posed this question never returned a clear answer. I refuse to read into that because I only asked those I knew would understand my motives and not read malice into the question. Those individuals have lives outside of me picking their brains.
What does it all mean, then?
The conclusions I have reached based on this line of research are as follows:
1) Public schoolers in general do not mean to cause the frustration they do when asking, “What will you do about socialization?” Unlike us, they do not hear the question routinely. Since socialization is held in such high regard, they are genuinely concerned that it may be difficult to provide.
2) Homeschoolers and public schoolers have very different ideas on what is important. Ok, I know that one is a no-brainer to many, but I also know that many may be shocked to find out that education is rated a second priority for public schoolers. In the same turn, public schoolers may very well be shocked to find out that we homeschoolers value education over socialization. They may also be surprised to know that we really would prefer our children to learn social standards from the adults we wish them to be like instead of the other children, ignorant of acceptable behavior, that roam the school halls.
3) Public school teachers aren’t so different from homeschoolers. Some of my staunchest supporters in the homeschool world are those who do or have taught in public school. One dear teacher friend said this, “I am very pro-homeschool…I think most teachers know a good teacher is a good teacher, whether a mom, dad, certified educator, or just a person with life experience. A motivated student is intrinsically a happy, well-adjusted child…It is obvious from statistics that homeschool children do well in college…I care and try very hard and love the kids I teach. I think parents who choose to homeschool feel the same way.”
Fellow homeschoolers, try not to be offended when the question comes up (and it will, we know it will). Instead, just remember that it is being asked because they have different priorities. It is almost like asking a secular homeschooler what curriculum they use for Bible time.
Now who wants pie?